Title: The True Marks of a Christian
Focus: If we wear the name Christian, we ought to bear the distinct mark of a Christian which involves heartfelt loyalty to God, not just reliance on a name, membership or ritual keeping.
Function: To motivate the hearers to rid themselves of a minimalist rule-keeping mindset to a 24 hour a day heartfelt devotion to God that shows itself in their keeping God’s will at the forefront of everything they do.
Text: Romans 2:17-29
Intro: 1. Talk about marks. a. Foresters mark trees, which to cut down or not b. Auto parts stores mark life-time warrantee parts c. Mothers mark their kid’s clothing for camp d. Marked clothing in boot camp in the military 2. Paul speaks of the marks of a true believer 3. When defining something sometimes helpful to say what it is not 4. Paul begins by defining what the marks of a believer are not I. (Rom 2:17-24) The first “unmark” of a believer is mere membership. A. There was a reason for Jews to be confident 1. They were called “Jews” and had the Torah 2. Their job was to enlighten the unenlightened B. Can you identify with this feeling? 1. We know the truth a. Responsibility of admonishing others to obey his will b. There are a lot of foolish and immature people c. Many do not “read the instructions” 2. Paul’s questions to those of us who know God’s will. 3. Then he has the nerve to answer our question for us! 4. He accuses us of being responsible for unbelievers speaking badly of our God! Why? C. It is sort of like brother Brighton. 1. Pompous man demanded a perfect appearance a. Member of most prestigious church in town b. Very little tolerance for children 2. So he volunteered to teach the Bible class of young boys. a. "Why do people call me a Christian?" b. "Maybe it's because they don't know you." 3. Brother Brighton knew about appearances, a. Those who knew him knew that this was all it was b. “Teaching” those less perfect made him feel better c. He felt it was his responsibility to enlighten everyone 4. Always quick to point out other’s shorcomings and errors a. But that is as far as it went. b. Took the attention off of himself as well 5. We not that bad, but have been hypocritical at times D. That is precisely the sort of thing Paul is talking about. 1. Knowing and teaching is not enough 2. Just bearing a name or title is not enough a. “Christian” instead of Jew b. Member of the “Church of Christ” 3. Loudest sermon is the one unheard, yet seen 4. So a mere title, membership or name is an unmark II. The second unmark is ritualistic religion (Rom 2:25-27) A. The Jews were distinct 1. Exod 19:5 - They were God’s special people 2. They were a holy nation 3. Distinctive mark of their special status Gen 17 - Circumcision - Sign of the covenant B. ILL: Many people today bear marks to set them apart 1. Employees at department store - nametag or clothes 2. Ball game - Color, T-Shirt, Basball Cap C. Our distinction as Christians? Not circumcision, it passed away 1. Baptism? Col 2:11-12 a. Paul compare baptism to circumcision b. Circumcision made without hands c. Sign of God’s covenant with his people 2. But Paul limits the value of ritualistic rule-keeping a. Value only if you keep the law. b. If not, circumcision becomes uncircumcision. c. Baptism is only of value if you obey God. d. Not obey God, baptism becomes unbaptism! 3. What Paul says next is hard to swallow. a. Uncircumcised in judgement over circumcised? b. Don’t think, “John doesn’t believe in baptism!” 4. Paul’s point? a. Jews distinct not because of some rituals - Sacrifices, circumcision, temple - Could find these in other nations b. What set them apart was loyalty to Yahweh D. What sets us apart as Christians is our loyalty to our Lord Jesus 1. Not outward marks, can find many of them in other religions 2. If Christian mean just baptism, then it becomes unbaptism 3. Can go through it mindlessly - does no good 4. That why some get baptized again III. So, just what is the mark of a true Christian? (Rom 2:28-29) A. It is not what is on the outside, such as a name, membership or ritual B. ILL: It’s like the packaging on some of our groceries - get less 1. U.S. News & World Report - same size box, less product 2. May be nice flashy box, bu deficient when opened up 3. We buy the bag cereals. a. Not look as nice, but more substance less expensive b. You see the product, not the package. 4. What is inside is what matters C. That is what Paul is talking about. 1. Christian is not about packaging 2. Christian has true substance inside a. Instead of “what a great looking box” b. It will be, “What great tasting cereal” 3. God is not looking for a flashy empty box 4. Looking for one full of faithfulness and loyalty to God D. So what does this mean? 1. Not mean stop baptizing, worshipping or communion 2. Means faith not something for show on Sunday. 3. Faith is integrated with every area of our life. 4. Even when we think no one is looking, we still are loyal to God Concl: 1. Do you bear the unmarks of a Christian, or the mark of a Christian? 2. Jer 3:21 - 4:4 - Paul’s instruction similar to the prophecy here. a. God replied with “If you will return…” b. This suggests they were bearing the “unmarks” of a believer c. God not interested in short-lived display of sorrow & shame or confession d. What he was really interested in a change of heart that would show itself in a change of their habits. We call this conversion. 3. The word, “conversion” means a change over to something else. a. So converted, notadd going to worship on Sunday mornings b. You completely change your life. 4. What sort of changes? Great time for breakout groups to apply personally 5. Since we don’t do that, let me ask you to ask yourself these few questions. a. What is the mark of my Christianity? b. Is it that I go to church on Sunday? Or is it more? c. Do I consciously consider God’s will when I make my decisions? d. When it comes to activities, do I consider God’s will? e. When it comes to how I react to others, do I consider God’s will? f. How much do I pray when I am faced with tough decisions? g. Do I need to consider God’s will more often? 6. Last big question. What does God want me to do now?